The first decade of the new millennium saw several changes in government, from the Social Democrat/Green coalition government (1998-2005) via the Grand Coalition (2005-2009) to the coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democratic Party. Besides the country's economic woes, the issue of demographic change began to enter public awareness. Germany's statutory pension system was supplemented by a grant-aided but privately funded pension scheme (known as the Riester-Rente). In 2001 the Schröder government adopted the Agenda 2010, which involved a reform of the country's social security system including a new welfare regime (known as Hartz IV), which led to widespread protests from the public. Another controversial issue that dominated the agenda during this decade was how to integrate the country's immigrants into mainstream German society in the "right" way. However, the biggest shock of the decade was undoubtedly the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, the aftershocks of which were felt around the world. The single currency, the Euro, was introduced in 2002, bringing the European Union a big step closer to integration. The European Union underwent an Eastern enlargement. The integration process, however, was severely put to the test by the global financial crisis of 2008.
Conceptual and organisational changes
In April 1999 the Agency underwent what was the most profound conceptual and organisational reform in the history of the organisation. This initiative by the Federal Ministry of the Interior came in response to the national programme Moderner Staat – Moderne Verwaltung (Modern state – modern administration), which was designed to create a more "active", citizen-oriented and efficient government, modern management structures and greater competition, and to promote the use of modern technologies within government. In fact the Agency had already begun to critically review its profile back in 1987. However, the tasks associated with reunification had temporarily removed these plans from the agenda, so only a small number of stand-alone measures were implemented at the time, such as a 1996 survey among secondary school teachers on the take-up rate and quality of teaching materials.
Between April and September 1999 the Agency underwent a comprehensive evaluation process that was managed by an internal working group in cooperation with the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach. The Institut questioned more than 2,000 existing and potential clients of the Agency on a number of issues, including their opinion of the Agency's current range of publications, events and multimedia services. The internal working group evaluated the organisational structure of the Agency, the nature of its publications and services, and its personnel requirements. Two final reports were published and submitted to the Federal Ministry of the Interior in October 1999.
On May 17, 2000 the Ministry issued its conclusions together with a set of guidelines for the impending modernisation of the Agency. Based on this outcome, a conceptual and organisational blueprint for the "new" Federal Agency for Civic Education was designed.
Under the decree concerning the Federal Agency for Civic Education dated January 24, 2001 the Agency was given a new management structure. Its limitation to providing civic education "among the German people", as previous decrees had read, was lifted. This extended the Agency's scope beyond native Germans to include foreigners living in Germany, too.
Its range of priority areas was extended to include integration and immigration, the future of the welfare state and social market economy, and the phenomenon of violence in society.
The evaluation also led to the discontinuation of a number of publications, including Zeitlupe, Annotierte Bibliografie, PZ and Kontrovers. Other publications such as Externer Link: APuZ were updated and relaunched. Responsibility for the weekly publication Externer Link: Das Parlament was transferred to the German Bundestag; however, the Agency remained on the editorial team of Das Parlament's regular themed issues until 2010. To cut costs and make more efficient use of its budget the Agency discontinued its policy of providing its publications free of charge and began to charge a flat fee to its readers.
New organisational structures
The Agency's fragmented organisational structure, with some departments consisting of only one person, was completely redeveloped to reduce the number of organisational units and create a flatter hierarchy. Two larger units were set up. Zentrale Verwaltung, or Central Administration, consisted of three departments; while the Fachabteilung, or specialist department, was divided into six departments. Another central unit was set up that would be responsible for introducing modern management instruments, as well as six temporary project groups.
The existing Presidential and two Vice-Presidential posts were replaced by one President who, when absent, would be represented by the Head of the Fachabteilung. In July 2000, Minister of the Interior Otto Schily (SPD) appointed Thomas Krüger, also a Social Democrat, the new President of the bpb. His deputy since 2002 has been Dr Bernd Hübinger (CDU).
In September 2003 the Agency moved to its new head office on Adenauerallee 86 in Bonn. Its media and communications centre on Stresemannstraße in Berlin expanded its range of services for the capital's citizens and visitors and relocated to Friedrichstraße 50 in 2010. The Ost-West-Kolleg, whose offices were on the campus of the Federal Government's University of Applied Sciences in Brühl near Cologne, was renamed KonferenzCentrum Brühl in 2003. The organisation was dissolved on September 1, 2004.
Reaching out to children, adolescents and young adults
Besides its previous audience – multipliers and opinion leaders – the Agency identified a new target group, namely adolescents and young adults. Easily accessible, attractive activities and services in the areas of music and youth culture and a range of new campaigns and events were developed. They included Externer Link: Timer, a new calendar for pupils; Externer Link: fluter, a magazine for adolescents that was published in Externer Link: print and Externer Link: online; and a children's website at Externer Link: www.HanisauLand.de. The Agency also launched various peer education projects such as Externer Link: Young EU Professional and Externer Link: teamGLOBAL that were designed to train young people as multipliers who would then pass on their newly acquired knowledge to their peers.
The main objective was and is to arouse an interest in commitment and participation at an early age; essentially, to teach children and young people that they have the power to make things happen. Accordingly, in 2007 the Federal Agency for Civic Education joined forces with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the German Federal Youth Council to launch an action programme known as Nur wer was macht, kann auch verändern! (You can only change things if you get involved!) to encourage more youth participation. The campaign built on a similar participation project that had existed between 2003 and 2005. It aimed to encourage greater social and political participation among children, adolescents and young adults aged 6 to 27 and give them an opportunity to make their voices heard in political decision-making, for instance in their local communities. During the bumper election year of 2009 (when the Federal President, the European Parliament and the Bundestag held their elections along with eight local and five Länder-level elections), the Agency promoted another youth participation project by the name of Aktion09 – Gib Deiner Meinung eine Stimme! (Action 09 – Make your opinions heard!) that aimed to encourage adolescents and young adults to engage in the political process.
Expansion of the Agency's online footprint
A major aspect of the bpb's reorientation programme was the expansion of its online footprint. The most important element in this regard was the Agency's online portal at Externer Link: www.bpb.de, where users have since been able to order bpb publications, register for events, and access a comprehensive collection of information on historical subjects and current political issues. Several cooperation projects were launched that produced a variety of websites on historical subjects, such as Externer Link: www.jugendopposition.de on youth-led opposition movements in the GDR, Externer Link: www.chronik-der-mauer.de, a chronicle of the Berlin Wall, and Externer Link: www.chotzen.de, which describes the history of the Jewish Chotzen family from 1914 to the present day. In 2005 the Agency launched the website Externer Link: www.eurotopics.net, a daily press review with articles from 28 countries that contributes towards establishing a European public sphere. Finally, the Agency's Externer Link: Wahl-O-Mat service, an aid to choosing one's preferred candidate or party in the run-up to Bundestag, European or Länder-level elections, has proven enormously popular since it was launched in 2002.
New guidelines and a new corporate design
In 2001 the Agency also changed the way in which it cooperated with and supported independent civic education organisations. A new policy was introduced in 2002, quickly followed by a new set of jointly selected priority areas and quality assurance instruments. The number of events receiving funding from the Federal Agency increased considerably. Also in 2001 the bpb was awarded the status of "pilot agency" for introducing Externer Link: gender mainstreaming into its work. Gender mainstreaming was seen as a cross-cutting task to ensure that all of the bpb's activities and services and also its internal structure took adequate account of the different perspectives, realities and interests of men and women.
The vision behind the "new and improved" Federal Agency for Civic Education, namely for it to function and be recognised as a driving force in civil society, required it to rethink its external communications, too. The Agency professionalised its public and press relations, introduced product-specific marketing, organised high-profile events and developed a highly recognisable brand. In 2002 it introduced a new corporate design including a new logo, new colours, and a new way of writing its abbreviated name: bpb. All products now featured the new corporate design.
The Federal Agency for Civic Education today
Two major recent socio-political developments have left a clear mark on the organisational structure of the bpb. The publication of the results of the PISA study triggered a broad educational policy debate that has revealed, alarmingly, a particularly low level of political and social participation among less educated and socially disadvantaged population groups, suggesting that their interests are barely accounted for at the political level – an unacceptable situation in any democratic community. The second challenge is the increased prevalence of extremist movements over the last ten years. The right-wing extremist NPD has garnered increasing voter support, particularly in the eastern Länder, while support for right-wing extremist opinions appears to be growing within the general population, too. Following September 11, 2001 there has been an increase in awareness of Islamism, as well as a rise in left-wing extremism and anarchist protest movements above all in some larger German cities. In 2007 the bpb responded by setting up two new specialist departments, one for apolitical target groups (Politikferne Zielgruppen) and the other for extremism (
The Federal Ministry of the Interior issued a decree on May 26, 2010 commissioning the Agency to develop and manage projects to promote democratic participation and combat extremism in eastern Germany. These activities are scheduled to run initially to December 31, 2013. To this end, effective July 1, 2010 a management office was set up in Berlin as part of the Extremism department. Moreover, in February 2011 the executive office of the Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance – Against Extremism and Violence (BfDT) was incorporated into the bpb. The BfDT is a central point of contact and major civil society partner for a wide variety of activities to promote democracy and tolerance. It functions as a clearing house and network hub for all aspects of civil society engagement.
New services and publications
The continued public debate concerning the integration of immigrants living in Germany led the bpb to select this subject as one of its long-term priority areas. New services and publications were developed in cooperation with partners working in this field, such as the Externer Link: Newsletter Migration und Bevölkerung (Migration and population newsletter), a series of "dialogue seminars" with imams, the Zukunftsforum Islam, a series of events on the future of Islam, and Jugend, Religion, Demokratie, a project on youth, religion and democracy. The topic features regularly in many of the Agency's other services and publications. The aim is to facilitate access to civic education measures for a larger number of immigrants, and to raise awareness in mainstream society of the challenges inherent in a heterogeneous, pluralist society.
In a move to reach out to a larger young audience the bpb cooperated on TV productions such as Sido geht wählen, which aired in the run-up to the 2009 Bundestag elections and featured a well-known German rapper preparing to cast his vote, and ahnungslos (Clueless), a TV show. The print series Externer Link: Was geht? (Whassup?), Die Externer Link: Schulstunde als Talkshow (Classroom chat show) and Externer Link: Themenblätter im Unterricht, a set of worksheets on current political and social issues, were developed as easily accessible teaching materials for use in comprehensive and vocational schools. The bpb engages in combating extremism by cooperating on various projects to promote and support local initiatives and civic society groups that are fighting extremism in their immediate environments. In addition, for a number of years the Agency has been part of an initiative entitled Externer Link: Abschied von Hass und Gewalt (No more hate and violence) that works with extremists with a criminal record.
In a globalised age, the scope of civic education has grown far beyond national borders. The bpb has extended its activities to the European level, organising international conferences and accompanying educational projects as part of the Externer Link: Networking European Citizenship Education (NECE) initiative. It also organises annual international conferences for Holocaust researchers and scholars.
For an overview of all recent activities of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, consult the bpb's